There has been much enthusiasm about new undersea internet cables in Papua New Guinea and predicted cheaper internet, but have prices fallen yet? Amanda H A Watson, Picky Airi and Moses Sakai analyse internet pricing for the first half of the year.
The Coral Sea Cable links PNG to Sydney and was completed in December last year. It is now available for use, but there seems to have been limited take-up. The Kumul Submarine Cable is a domestic cable throughout PNG and is currently undergoing testing. There are predictions that the two cables are set to make the country’s internet faster and cheaper. A NICTA public consultation process is underway regarding pricing at present.
This article reports on data collected systematically using Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) menus in mobile telephones. Customers use these menus by selecting, for instance, ‘1’ to ‘Buy a plan’ then ‘1’ for ‘Data plan’ in the next list of options received and so on. The advantage of using USSD menus to collect data is that this method provides accurate, up-to-date information and can capture temporary promotions. By contrast, collecting newspaper advertisements or pricing information from company websites or other sources may not be as reliable.
‘Digicel has 92 per cent of the mobile telecommunication market in PNG.’
This research does not capture the pricing structures of all internet service providers operating in PNG, such as those offering services to businesses, households, universities and so on; it captures the pricing structures relevant to a substantial portion of the country’s internet users when they access the internet through mobile telephones.
Over three quarters of mobile telephone connections in PNG are prepaid. This research has found that there has been no change in mobile internet pricing for prepaid customers in the first half of 2020.
Digicel has 92 per cent of the mobile telecommunication market in PNG. Since 6 January 2020, data has been collected every Monday using the Digicel USSD menu accessed with the code ‘*675#’.
Data plans were captured under the ‘day’ category (1-day, 3-day, 7-day and 30-day) over a period of six months every Monday. Among the four categories of day plans, the most accessible (the option that enables a user to access the internet for the least amount of money), the middle, and the high-end data plan option were recorded. Users who can afford to outlay a larger amount of money upfront receive a better rate per megabyte.
There were no changes. The Digicel rates were consistent throughout the period of data collection.
‘Despite the repeated promises and predictions of reductions in internet prices in PNG, there have been no changes.’
Some Digicel plans offered bonus data for use of social media platforms while others did not. For instance, the 1-day plan did not include any extras. The 7-day plan has social plans for the most accessible and the middle categories – both include 2 Gigabytes of data to use on Facebook, with the middle category providing an additional 1 Gigabyte for YouTube. Again, the social plans and pricing structures did not change during the six-month-long data collection period.
bmobile and Telikom
Prices for bmobile and Telikom were brought into alignment in 2019 due to a merger. Since 6 January 2020, data has been collected every Monday using a USSD menu accessed with the code ‘*777#’ on a bmobile device and also using the same code on a Telikom device. The same prices are being offered through both devices.
Data was collected for the 1-day, 3-day, 7-day and 30-day options. bmobile and Telikom have been offering the same mobile data plans over the period of research, which do not have social bundles included. The cost of data remained the same over the half-year period.
Comparison of data rates (toea per megabyte, January to June 2020)
|1-day plan||3-day plan||7-day plan||30-day plan|
|Service provider||Most accessible||Middle||High-end||Most accessible||Middle||High-end||Most accessible||Middle||High-end||Most accessible||Middle||High-end|
|bmobile / Telikom||0.60||0.60||0.60||0.55||0.55||0.50|
* These Digicel plans offered bonus social plans. The ‘most accessible’ option for the 3-day plan and the 7-day plan included Facebook (700MB FB and 2000MB FB, respectively), while the 7-day plan middle option also included YouTube (2000MB FB plus 1000MB YT).
Coverage and use
While the Digicel pricing varies, it is much more expensive than the pricing offered by bmobile/Telikom: more than ten times as expensive for the most accessible 1-day plan.
That being the case, why doesn’t everyone use bmobile/Telikom?
We believe that the main reason is that the geographical coverage of the Digicel mobile network is much wider than the coverage of its competitor. Many people in rural areas rely on Digicel as the only available option for their communication needs. Indeed, many of these people make and receive telephone calls but do not use mobile internet regularly or at all. Meanwhile, those residing in urban areas need to use Digicel to stay in contact with their relatives in the village.
Despite the repeated promises and predictions of reductions in internet prices in PNG, there have been no changes in the prices offered in the first half of this year at the retail level.
It may be that, as predicted, the new undersea cables will lead to reductions in prices for consumers. Several other factors will influence the possibility of this outcome, including the need to recover costs from the new domestic cable, market competition, full operation of the PNG Internet Exchange Point, and existing supplier contracts.
This article by Amanda H A Watson, Picky Airi and Moses Sakai appeared first on Devpolicy Blog (devpolicy.org), from the Development Policy Centre at The Australian National University. Republished with permission.
The post Analysis: is phone data getting cheaper in Papua New Guinea? appeared first on Business Advantage PNG.
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